Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said she agonized over the weekend about how to help people in Idaho’s health coverage gap as this year’s Idaho legislative session winds down. “For six years, we have worked on trying to get coverage for those people in the gap,” she said. “I felt like today was probably my last chance to try to get a vote.”
So Perry made a motion in this morning’s House Health & Welfare Committee meeting to send the bill back to the full House – and it passed on a 7-5 vote, the same vote of approval it received last time, before the bill was pulled from the House floor and sent back to committee.
“I think a lot of voices were silenced on the issue,” said Perry, who is leaving the Legislature after this year to run for Congress. “I think debate on the floor is healthy, and I think we need to have a vote on the bill.”
“I think it’s very close,” Perry said. “I think you could have it a couple votes either way.”
She added, “If it unfortunately dies, then it dies. I just think that the public deserves to have a vote. They have come here, they have spoken to legislators and the governor, they have held demonstrations – I don’t know what more they could possibly do. I think the issue has been around long enough.”
Perry noted that the Trump Administration has been sending favorable signs to Idaho about the dual-waiver plan, which would cover roughly half of those in the gap population by allowing them to qualify for subsidies to purchase private insurance through the state’s insurance exchange – something people in the gap can’t get now because their incomes are too low. Had Idaho expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, all 78,000 Idahoans in the gap would be covered through Medicaid.
To generate the savings to pay for the plan, the dual-waiver proposal calls for shifting roughly 2,800 of the sickest Idahoans now covered by exchange plans onto Medicaid, which would more fully cover their end-of-life care needs. That move is projected to sharply drop premiums for exchange plans, by removing the sickest portion of the covered population.
“It’s very interesting, it’s innovative,” Perry said. “Let’s try the waiver, if the federal government will support it.”
Perry said for the past six years serving on the House Health & Welfare Committee, “Year after year, I’ve heard people come in and cry their hearts out.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke was non-committal about the move after the House finished its morning floor session. “This has all happened fairly quickly,” he said. “That committee has sent the bill back up. … This is certainly extraordinary that they would do that – maybe it’s not unprecedented.” Bedke said he’s not offering any opinion about the move at this point.